Failure - such a terrifying word that our inner critics tend to use so frequently. It is real and it hurts. Overcoming the fear of failure in a way that you don’t let it hold you back is a seemingly impossible feat.
Many feel deeply cut by failure, but your attitude upon failing will separate those who go on to achieve success and those who give up.
Every CEO I’ve worked with has had to deal with failure on their journey to the top. Some had dropped out of school, been rejected by prospective employers, or even fired. But they never gave up. To build resilience, you must transform failure into success.
Not about avoidance
In a study recently published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers found that success in the face of failure comes from focusing on what you hope to achieve rather than trying not to fail. While it’s tempting to try and avoid failure, people who do this fail far more often than those who optimistically focus on their goals.
The people who make history see failure as a mere stepping stone to success. Thomas Edison is a great example, as it took him a thousand tries to develop the light bulb. When someone asked him how it felt to fail all those times, he said, “I didn’t fail one thousand times. The light bulb was an invention with one thousand steps.”
So, taking a page out of Edison’s book, how do we focus less on our fear of failing and more on our goal? Here are seven tips to help refocus on your goals.
Your reality is shaped by your language— instead of calling it failure, try using the words ‘experience’ or ‘attempts’.
A curious mindset
If you approach life in the stance of curiosity, you are much more likely to move forward when you have failed. Ask what you learned through the process of attempting and failing? What can be done differently?
How has it made you better? What did it teach? Wisdom is life experiences that have been processed and integrated.
One difficult aspect of failure is thinking that everyone is now referring to you as a failure. Remind yourself that it is much easier to point out people’s faults and laugh at them rather than being the 'in the arena.’
You had the courage to step out of a comfort zone, took a chance and worked hard towards those goals — that is more than what most people can say. It is a fact that when people are on their deathbed and asked about their biggest regrets, the number one was ‘I wished I had been true to myself and not cared so much about what people thought of me...”
Not an end point
Shift your thinking from seeing each failure as a confirmation that you can’t succeed and that if you fail, it’s game over. Instead, work on accepting that failure is simply part of the process.
One of the biggest symptoms of suffering from failure is that you are thrown off track. Instead of drowning in emotions, get some perspective. Zoom out and compartmentalize the experience.
Remind yourself of all that you have historically won and gained so that you are not paralyzed by lost money, time and effort. Accept the failure and move past it as an isolated incident.
It is a human instinct to self-defend and preserve, and therefore when the proverbial wagon starts rolling downhill, people are quick to point fingers. Successful people own up their mistakes. Without accepting errors, you aren’t able to learn from them - the failure has then become meaningless. The goal is that you don’t make the same mistake twice.
Fear of failure should be lesser in weight than your drive for fulfillment and accomplishment. Research indicates that people who are seen as lucky keep their hearts and eyes open to opportunities even when they have failed and see failure as part of the process as they move towards success.
It is natural to fail. Good, even. And when you experience failure, stay calm, analyze the cause, devise a plan of action and keep going. This past year has been full of failures across the board, both big and small.
From the global pandemic affecting businesses across the globe, to the period of quarantine affecting people’s relationships and emotions, 2020 has offered up a host of seemingly unavoidable fails. With 2021, we must look to the importance of new beginnings and reasserting existing goals and setting new ones.
- Dr. Saliha Afridi is Managing Director of The Lighthouse Arabia.